Millennial Adventures: Bears’ night out - an evening with Drinking and Dragons

A few weeks back, I was trying to come up with column ideas, and an editor suggested I start doing a segment on local millennial hangouts and nightlife. Naturally, I responded to this idea by bursting out laughing.

I don’t get out much. If it weren’t for roller derby, I’d probably be in my PJs by 6 every night. I don’t drink or dance or know how to have fun in public, so I would be among the worst people to write a column on where hip and happening millennials go after work or on the weekends.

And then I found Drinking and Dragons.

Formally known as the New London County Role Playing Guild, the group gets together quarterly or so to do that quintessential nerd thing and play tabletop roleplaying games.

RPGs are basically group storytelling sessions, with everyone personifying a specific character led by a game master who guides them through an adventure. While many are fantasy-based — I’m in a campaign where I play a druid accompanied by an orc fighter and a halfling necromancer, among other characters — RPGs can be set in any world and have any number of themes or objectives. Campaigns can be a two-hour jaunt about superheroes fighting a bad guy or a two-year epic quest to save the empire.

Before I went to the Oct. 21 meetup, I chatted with NLCRPG supreme overlord and New London native Joey Royale, who goes by his old band moniker because someone who works in the education sector generally doesn’t want to be associated with something called “Drinking and Dragons.”

He said he’s a relative newcomer to the world of RPGs, and he came up with the idea about a year and a half ago because he wanted to find people to play with.

A father of two himself, Royale said a lot of his friends who play RPGs are new dads, so he created NLCRPG so they could have a space to play together without having to schedule a weekly session around family commitments, sick kids, work, and so on.

He also wanted to dispel some of the negative connotations that D&D and other RPGs have of being an activity for unemployed greaseballs who live in their parents’ basements and yell at their dice when they fail an important roll.

(Yelling at your dice when you roll a 1 on an important move is a time-honored tradition, for the record.)

The first event in July 2016 involved six games and 30 people at the now-closed State Street Saloon in New London. Drinking and Dragons 7 hosted 85 people playing 14 games at the former Thames Science Center building on Gallows Lane in New London.

The venue has changed several times as the group has grown, but the format stays the same: a variety of games to suit all interests and skill levels, a handful of people per game, and a dedicated game master to lead the way. With Halloween following the October event, a lot of the games chosen by the game masters had a spooky feel to them, ranging from a Revolutionary War-era witchhunt to “Cannibal Shia LaBeouf.”

I picked a double-header of games involving murderous woodland creatures, but we only got around to the first one, “Honey Heist,” in which we played as bears trying to steal the grand prize honey pot from the annual HoneyCon in Las Vegas.

I played as the aardvark driver of the criminal gang — aardvarks are apparently known as African ant bears, so it works — whose main asset was a long tongue that could be used to unscrew ceiling vent covers and swipe goods.

I had a great time with Jesse (black bear, the “muscle” of the crew), Kelley (sun bear, thief) and Nico (GM), not only in the game but also chatting during breaks about our RPG experience and other games we’ve played and wanted to try.

I’m not an experienced player by any means, but when the Saturday night dichotomy of options seems to be taking shots or taking care of young offspring, this is a refreshing and relieving change of pace.

Amanda Hutchinson is assistant community editor for The Times. Read more of her work at amandalhutchinson.wordpress.com.

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